It was going to be a pretty high bar to jump over clearing the climax of Chapter 3 of the Mandalorian. The climax of the action, and the character and universe building going on, was at its best in Chapter 3, and it was clear that at the end no one was quite sure where to go.
We’re coming off the strongest episode, and the first three episodes, as a whole, make a mini-arc that by itself could stand as a movie. Honestly, the show thus far has been a master class in the “show, don’t tell” school of storytelling and worldbuilding, so here’s hoping that they keep up the momentum. As always, there will be major spoilers in this article, so enjoy some filler art before we get all spoilertastic. Also, in case you haven’t watched them, there will be some story spoilers for Rebels and The Clone Wars in here as well when I dive into some story implications.
The opening for the episode feels familiar to the flashbacks that we’ve seen a few times right after the Mando has gotten his butt royally kicked. We open underwater, looking at some blue… shrimp? Maybe Plankton? Smurf Prawns? Okay, later on they’re called blue krill… and under the water they don’t look interesting but not unusual. Once we’re outside of the water, though… they are super-blue. And, honestly, pretty plastic looking, but that likely just means they’re a practical effect. Still, they could use a bit of black wash or something to darken them up slightly.
One of the things that the Mandalorian does spectacularly is the idea of “show, not tell.” It’s a hard line to walk, because tell is certainly important in a fantasy / western story, but there is just so much told in the visual language of the show. We’re getting an idyllic little village, and at first glance you could totally think you were just watching a backwater planet that has never seen a sword before, let alone a blaster.
Except that in the first pan across the farming ponds, we see two droids. One walker and an astromech on a wooden cart. This isn’t a primitive village, it’s simply rustic. These villagers are peaceful but integrate into the technology of their universe. I love this idea of using the natural scene so organically, and then plugging in the stuff that makes sense. It’s not the everywhere is shiny setting universe of the prequels, but the fringes where people are just living their lives.
Star Wars has long leaned into the Western genre as inspiration; while the original trilogy is ultimately a fantasy story in space, the lines between western and fantasy are often pretty blurry (I will always argue that Star Wars is more Fantasy than it is Sci-Fi… because it is). If you’re familiar with the western genre, you’re going to get the undertones of the episode opening almost immediately once the peace is disturbed.
The piece is disturbed and Klatooinian raiders show up, while Omera, one of the farmers, watches in horror as her daughter is right at the edge of the pools where the raid is going to come from. The farmers all scatter, and Omera manages to hide with her daughter in one of the baskets in the pool. The raiders are smashing and taking, basically wiping out the harvest for the village, and there is a real tension to seeing them break apart other baskets as the leader swings his blaster around, ready to fire. We know next to nothing of the characters, but the situation, tied to how the storytelling has worked for the Mandalorian, is a shorthand to get us invested quickly.
This is a fascinating bit of storytelling, which calls back to what we’ve seen about the title character, but also given that we know nothing of several of the other characters that have been teased in artwork but not revealed in the story as of yet. Is the daughter going to end up being Cara Dune, Gina Carano’s character that’s been heavily featured in the marketing materials but hasn’t shown up yet? At this point… we don’t know, but we can see the setup for the western already.
After the title screen, we’re back on the Razor Crest watching our Mandalorian buddy experience what every father that’s lived through the toddler years knows and understands… the inherently destructive nature of a child that must flip every Gamorrean switch he or she can find. Seriously, in the middle of writing this I had to go and turn on the power switch connected to my router because my two year old decided it was a great time to play with it.
The little look that Yiddle (I’m sticking with it… I refuse to give “The Child” its due) gives him as he slowly leans over to hit it again, like he’s somehow being sneaky… that cuts so deep. I don’t exactly know how a switch can create turbulence in a vacuum, but who am I to argue with Baby Yoda’s power. Also familiar to any dad is the “fine, I’ll just pick you up and hold you” move that the Mando pulls. I may or may not be typing this with my son on my lap right now (mostly may).
The Mando and the little “Womp Rat”… okay, I like the in-universe nod to his size, even if I presume he’s a billion times more adorable than anything that can be bulls-eyed by a T-16 back home, do a little bit of planet searching and head out to Sorgan. There’s no starport, no industrial or population centers, and it’s not really on the way to anywhere. Presumably, it’s a good place to hide and for them to both stretch their legs for a little bit.
We get an answer to our question on who the kid is, and it is not Cara Dune, because the Razor Crest does a flyover and Omera looks up, presumably not any older than she was in the intro. If there’s a knock on this episode, it’s that where the Mandalorian has borrowed and paid homage to westerns and samurai films of the past… here we’re just straight up getting that story. This is Seven Samurai, the Magnificent Seven, or even the Three Amigos… defenseless town turns to outside help to beat back an aggressor.
Continuing the “how many of the writers have toddlers, anyway” theme, we see the Mandalorian giving futile instructions to Womp Rat to “stay right there” that he promptly ignores within about six seconds, and he’s ready for the walk and to hang out with the big guy. We also get to see yet another dad moment, when the Mandalorian doesn’t even argue, he just resigns himself with a sigh and starts walking.
It’s amazing how well Disney has managed to make these little pretend characters have so much power and charm on the screen. From BB-8 to Porgs to Baby Yoda (or even BD-1 in the case of the recent JEDI: Fallen Order), they simply nail the cute character. In any other application, Baby Yoda could just be sickeningly sweet or even corny, but for some reason, it just absolutely works here.
I mean, we get a short walking scene, and it should be something throw-away, but it’s just adorable and for the first time in cinematic history I’m asking for more scenes of characters walking. Somewhere, Cy Roth is screaming in triumph for having his padding invention used in such a way (though he was long gone, he likely was already vindicated by walking having been 2/3rds of the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
The first stop of Mando & Yiddle is a Common House to get some food and information. We get another little Easter Egg in a show that’s just awash in them, in a little Loth-cat (seen in Rebels a lot) that scares little Womp Rat. Look, I like Loth-cats, but I swear I will put you in a box and send you to the pound, cat, if you hurt a single hair on his old but young head.
As they walk across, Mando spies Cara Dune, dressed in armor and with a tiny rebel tattoo on her face (that’s… kind of hardcore when you think about the need for Rebels to blend in), and you know right away that something is up. After placing BY in a booster chair, we get the common house proprietress who is perhaps the most innocent adult character to ever appear in Star Wars. It’s actually kind of sweet, because you can tell she has literally no idea what the Mando is really asking for when it comes to information.
It’s funny, while the other episodes have had moments that feel like a video game, this whole scene feels like something out of just about every D&D session I’ve ever been in. We’ve got an inn, random NPCs, and a quest giver that seriously failed an insight role. Weirdly, I’m also getting a lot of Stargate SG-1 feeling to this, because this whole rustic motif was used in that series a lot.
When the proprietress leaves to get some broth for Yiddle, Mando sees that Cara is gone, and sets off to find her. I love that he trusts the Common House Keeper enough to watch BY, and at the same time doesn’t seem to get he’s likely tossed a fortune her way to do so. The chase is short lived, and shows off a bit more Mandalorian tech. This is another callback to the Rebels show, as we saw Sabine use similar gear. I love how so much of the little touches in the show are pulling from that, and not from the tiny bit we got with Jango/Boba (who based on everything else we’ve ever seen in Star Wars canon, are not really Mandalorians at all – they just dress like them).
Back in episode three, he got an upgrade to his bracers, and here we see a bit more of the tech in them. The computer, the flamethrower, and other stuff is more similar to what Sabine used in her armor, and the helmet tech tie in matches the scanners that a lot of the Mandlorians used (he is, curiously, lacking the flip-down scanner).
This is one of those moments in film where you just have to swallow the disbelief and just accept that Gina wouldn’t have simply mopped the floor with the Mando. Okay, joke aside, this is a great little fight. Outside of the fact that Cara is punching a guy in his Beskar steel-clad head, and seemingly making it hurt, they are pretty evenly matched in it. I like that the Mandalorian is a capable fighter but not at all invincible. This serves to both show us how capable Cara Dune is as a fighter while also making the Mando more interesting because he clearly has some shortcomings.
The fight is over pretty quickly as they hit a standoff point and give us the most gif-able moment yet out of Baby Yoda. We get a bit of exposition from Cara to explain her history with the Rebels… and it just works to emphasize what we’ve already seen out of her as a fighter. She calls herself a Shocktrooper, but then describes the job of a commando that does wetworks type stuff (i.e., killing those that need to be killed).
She clearly saw a lot of action after Endor… it’s not clear how long she was in the Rebellion, but the events of the Mandalorian happen five years after the Battle of Endor – and four years after the Battle of Jakku. This… is actually a pretty important thing when you’re talking about filling in the background of the war. There may have been celebrations after the Empire was killed and the second Death Star destroyed, but the Empire spanned the galaxy, and we’ve seen enough of the work of the Admirals, Moffs, and Administrators to know that they were going to cling to power.
If you haven’t read the comics (and you should), or the books, a lot of the story post-Endor has been filled in. Endor was the start of the fall of the Empire, while Jakku was the real “end” of it. Or, at least, it was the last main battle. Cara describes going from offing Imperial Warlords into a peacekeeper, and that wasn’t what she signed up for.
Turns out, the whole fight was them making assumptions about one another. She picked him out for being part of the Bounty Hunter Guild and having a FOB on her, while she assume he had taken a bounty on him or the kid. Their conversation ends with a gentle nudge to get the hell off her retirement planet, because planets are small in Star Wars, and he starts planning for going somewhere else.
We cut to the Mandalorian doing some sort of maintenance work on the Razor Crest when Pillboi and random farmer #5 show up to try and hire the Mandalorian out to defend their city. Like I said… we’re basically reliving Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven now… except there are only two of them. They offer money, but he’s not interested in it… a man has to make sure you protect your rates, or clients will always demand a discount.
What they do have, however, is solitude and isolation, which is exactly what he’s been looking for. They had to ride on a droid-powered, hovering wooden cart… and wow, that is not something I thought I would ever write… for a whole day to get to the Razor Crest. So they can broker a trade, because who can possibly stand up to a Mandalorian… and his new helper.
His first stop on the way back Cara Dune’s camp to hire her for the help. After all, she has not all that much better to do and a pretty specific skill set. So, it’s less Three and more Two amigos. I’m going to assume that the Mando is Ned in this scenario. He lays it out pretty clearly… best case she’s paid for doing nothing and gets the isolation that she wants, worst case, she bloodies a couple of noses and still gets to do what she wants. We’re also treated to a shot of Baby Yoda, meeting our obligatory “Baby Yoda must be on screen at least every five minutes” quota, of him imitating the Mandalorian leaning back into the cart to watch the stars and sleep.
Omera’s daughter and the rest of the village kids come over to meet the newest 50 year old addition to their little gang, and basically they should just introduce awwww breaks into this show. It’s no surprise that Omera is setting up the shelter that he requested, and her daughter Winta almost gets a blaster when she tries to quietly sneak a look.
The next morning, Winta asks if Yiddle can come out and play, and oh my god, he’s playing with other kids! Omera is clearly into the armored look, and is paying a lot of attention to our Mandalorian friend. At the same time, we get a few questions answered that have been lingering for awhile. She asks how long its been since he took off his armor, and the answer was “yesterday.” Her follow-up is how long has it been since he took it off in front of someone else… and the answer is when he was about Winta’s age. He also explains what had been implied but not stated… that he’s not a “born” Mandalorian, but rather was a foundling that was adopted into the tribe.
In answering these questions, we get so many more laid out for us. Is he representative of what all of the Mandalorians have become after the Purge, or is his tribe a splinter or unique group that is following a different “this is the way.” We don’t exactly know where the Purge lines up to the timeline yet. Does it fall at the same time as the Jedi Purge / Rise of the Empire / Siege of Mandalore that happens at the end of the Clone Wars? Or does it happen later, perhaps sometime around the Battle of Yavin?
Across the Rebels and Clone Wars, we saw the Mandalorians several times; Sabine Wren, one of the main characters in Rebels, was herself a Mandalorian. There’s a ton of lore and worldbuilding around them which doesn’t line up to the story we’re seeing, but also isn’t necessarily contradicted by it. The last season of Rebels is set in the year leading up to the battle of Yavin, and it opens with the Mandalorians ultimately driving the Empire off the planet – but also in setting up for a fight when they come back.
Clone Wars was a bit different, and we see that they, as a culture, are in a pretty bad spot. Their violent culture, along with repeated wars and infighting, had greatly diminished their population and their influence. There was a wave in the Clone Wars where their leader had become a pacifist, mostly as a way to try and save their culture. It… did not ultimately go well, and by the end of the series they were in a Civil War that led to Darth Maul temporarily controlling the planet as a warlord and more losses.
We know that the upcoming season 7 of the Clone Wars is likely going to focus on the Siege of Mandalore, which was one of the final battles in the Clone Wars, where the Separatists and Droid Armies attacked the planet. By the time Rebels starts up five years before the Battle of Yavin, Mandalore is a puppet Imperial state, and several of the tribes have either allied with the Empire or have been directly pressed into serving along side Stormtroopers and the rest of the army.
Based on the flashbacks we’ve already seen from the Mandalorian, we know that he was rescued by someone during the Clone Wars, and ultimately was adopted by his tribe. We don’t yet know that the Mandalorians rescued him, or that the planet where it happened was Mandalore. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka both had ties to the Mandalorians, and I will lose my damn mind if they reveal that one of them was who rescued the Mando as a boy and gave him to the Mandalorians to take care of.
Now, despite all of that, I’m left wondering how the Mandalorians as a culture will survive if they don’t take off their armor in front of others. It seems like they need some numbers to survive. It’s a very subtle bit of acting where we get the Mandalorian saying this is the way, but it wasn’t the mindless repetition… it was almost resigned. After she leaves, we see him take off his helmet to watch the kids play and enjoy his food alone.
Later, we cut to Mando and Cara out doing some scouting when the other shoe drops… these raiders aren’t quite the thugs we saw with sticks and blasters at the start of the episode. They’re packing a pretty big weapon for a backwater planet: an AT-ST. There were already overwhelming odds against the village, but based on the reaction of our two characters, it just went to impossible, and they jump to the “nope, you gotta leave” answer to the villagers.
Of course, we have to get in the trope of “my land is sacred” argument and they all refuse to leave. At least, unlike so many others, we get the sensible statement by Cara of “sure you can, it’s a big planet” in response to the not leaving. Seriously… in a universe full of planets, and on one that’s sparsely populated, they could go. It’s just land. I really hate this as a storytelling trope, even though I understand why it’s used.
Since we’re already dealing with Seven Samurai as the “inspiration,” we’re going to jump into the plan B of turning a bunch of farmers into an elite fighting force. They do a bit of flipping the script in this, at least… where the inspiration to stay and fight comes from the farmers, and not from the mercenaries.
The Mando lays it out… he and Cara will fight the mech (his words), while the rest of them need to hold the raiders at bay. We get some voice over a montage, which makes it more interesting than just showing us a whole bunch of the stuff with music. There’s a bit of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves training, but the most interesting reveal is that Omera apparently knows how to shoot… while no one else in the village does. And when they show her actually shooting… she’s apparently a crack-shot with the blaster rifle. I have so many questions from that short little scene.
Some of the unsung heroes of the production is absolutely the prop department. Everything seen in the show feels used and lived in. When the Mandalorian is handing out blasters, they’re all different shapes and sizes, and all used in their own right. The shiny problem from the prequels is gone here… this universe looks lived in. More than that, there are just so many small touches and easter eggs baked in with everything they are doing.
The Mando gives instructions to Omera that they’re heading out, and they will be coming back hot. Everyone needs to be ready and follow the plan. The quick cloak and dagger work we get with the two heroes is just satisfying… luckily all of the raiders are holding convenient blue drinks that glow and are easily visible at night.
So, one big question I have is… if the Mando and Cara were hired to help get back the harvest and take care of the raiders… why do they blow it up? Isn’t that what the blue glowing things are? Some sort of cooking pot for the krill? Still, they blow up the tent, take out a lot of raiders, and anger the red-eyed AT-ST.
There’s actually some tension to this… while I don’t think anyone is expecting the Mando to get shot down, we know that IG-11 was featured in marketing and didn’t last more than an episode, so anyone could end buying it. They book it hard back to the camp, where their pit trap is waiting for the AT-ST. Of course, there’s a complication, as it stops short, and the raiders come rushing in.
It’s pretty clear they weren’t expecting blasters, however, as most are mowed down and the villagers manage to hold their own behind the fortifications for the most part. The AT-ST opens fire, but luckily, it’s as bad of a shot as most Stormtroopers, and Omera is just mowing down a ton of the raiders charging across the field. Side note… the lighting in the fight is just fantastic. It’s dark, given that it’s a night attack, but every blaster shot and explosion lights up and washes the scene in color, before it fades back. It’s a notable look in a series that’s full of gorgeous and memorable scenes.
In the end, it’s the Mando and Cara that go off and be heroic. Cara takes the pulse rifle (disintegration gun has a name), and gets right in the face of the AT-ST… below it’s line of fire, baiting it to move forward. Eventually, Cara gets it in the eye and it takes the plunge, allowing the Mando to do the easy part and finish it off. The villagers run in to take out the raiders, including the leader, and the day is saved. Honestly, I don’t know that any of the villagers were even killed, and somehow by the next day the village is no worse for wear with damage.
Okay, in truth, it’s revealed that it’s been a few weeks, so likely that it was rebuilt. The real discussion is between Omera, Mando, and Cara. Omera points out how happy BY is, happier than he’s ever seen him. He reveals that if he takes off the helmet in front of anyone else, he can’t put it on again. I love that Cara calls out the nonsense of the system, and says that he could take it off, live with the beautiful young widow, and raise Yiddle while sipping on booze. Not a bad life at all to have.
Mando reveals his plan… that he’s going to leave Yiddle here so he can live in peace and happiness. The Mandalorian life is no way for a child to live, and he ultimately wants him to be happy. Cara remarks that it will break his little heart, and his response is clearly setting up something in the future: “he’ll get over it; we all do.” So, clearly his own childhood and the stuff that happened in it is fresh in the Mando’s head, as evidenced by repeated flashbacks caused by head trauma.
Of course, before the plan can ultimately happen, we get a short cut of a Bounty Hunter with a tracking FOB, clearly zoning in on someone. We don’t know if it’s the Mando, for breaking contract, Cara, or Yiddle. Before we find out, we get the Mandalorian talking to Omera, and her trying to get him to stay, and him falling back on this is the way. The resignation in the choice is heavy here, and you can tell he was tempted for a moment to let her take it off… but know that he ultimately doesn’t belong. Her understanding in that moment seems to point to some understanding.
The moment is interrupted by a shot ringing out. The scope was zoomed in baby Yoda, so we know the target… but luckily, Cara took him out before he could get the shot off. Mand reveals that the target was the kid, and she lays out the harsh reality that they will keep coming, because one hunter was able to find them. So, Adorable and Mando are on the road again, we get a tearful goodbye between Yiddle and Winta that just goes right for the feels, and what amounts to the perfect goodbye between Mando and Omera as he loads up the hover cart with some provisions and his gear. I know I mentioned Stargate SG-1 earlier, but wow, that end music feels so much like what that show often used, and not at all like Star Wars. Cut to credits and that beautiful theme art.
This wasn’t as strong as the last episode, but as a self-contained story, worked. What it was trying to set up will be obvious from the outset if you’re a fan of western or fantasy genre films at all… but it still executed the formula well. While I’m often critical of shows and films that just lift their inspiration and story in obvious ways (looking at you, Solo), you look past it here because there’s so much world building. The lull in the action only serves to heighten the action once it finally comes. If I’m going to knock anything, it’s that the battle feels a bit too short and too clean, but ultimately, that’s probably more reflective of the kind of fight that this was… small stakes of a village vs. some raiders, not an epic Rebel vs. Empire battle.
While Chapter 4 does answer a few questions that I have, it just puts down so many more that I’m left desperate for the next episode. What is the deal with Omera? Based on the age of her daughter, I’d guess about 9 or 10, she likely had the kid right around the Battle of Yavin. Was she an Imperial, a Rebel, or just some soldier? She clearly can fight, knows weapons, and was a leader calling out orders and strategy during the fight itself. I hope she’s not a one-off character, because I want some of those questions answered.
We get more background on Cara Dune, but if you’re like me, you’re screaming “take her with you!” at the end. They make a great pair, and stand as equals in a fight (in fact, she’s likely a better soldier than he ever will be, he’s just a better hunter). There will be a lot of fighting with Baby Yoda in the future to protect him, so I could see the next episode doing something to keep them together before he gets off the planet. She’s got plenty of unanswered questions as well, and given her story, would likely welcome the chance to go after the Empire that is seemingly funding the bounty (we know there’s at least one more Empire big-bad out there who hasn’t been revealed yet).
We don’t get any answers in this episode to the ultimate scheme of the Empire and what they wanted with Yiddle’s midichlorians. There, I said it… they wanted his midichlorians. I welcome Disney taking the dumbest thing in the prequels and somehow making it cool. We also don’t know how they are going to go after the Mando and Yiddle, or honestly, if Werner Herzog’s character even cares about him. They likely got what they wanted from whatever was done to BY, and the scientist wanted to keep him alive, so it could be the danger is coming from elsewhere. After all… IG-11’s contract seemed to contradict what the Mando had.
Speaking of the Bounty Hunters… how in the heck do those tracking FOBs even work? Do they have some sort of DNA sample, or is there something that can triangulate based on… I don’t know, magic dust or something? How did the bounty hunter at the end track them to a literal nowhere of a planet? They had to jump there via Hyperspace, and as of yet, the ability to track someone through Hyperspace is still years off (teased in Rogue One, it didn’t show up until the Last Jedi officially). Mando wouldn’t have been sloppy enough to leak their position, and I don’t see Cara doing it… who else could have tipped them off? The Common House Keeper who didn’t seem to know how bribes worked?
It’s probably a good sign that I’m desperate for more of this show… this is something just fantastic. It’s pretty special what Gutter has put together in this show, and it’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan.
Bonus LEGO Section
So, this episode is unique, as it is the source for the only LEGO set that we’ve gotten from the Mandalorian so far. Yes, they leaked/released a picture of a Battle Pack that seemingly has nothing to do with the show other than using the name, but this one is very much based on what we saw in Chapter 4. 75254 AT-ST is a 540 piece set that normally runs $49.99 USD… but luckily right now is on sale for $40 through Walmart.
It includes the AT-ST we saw in the show, though it has more color than we ever could make out and lacks the red eyes, but we get a couple of Klatoonian raiders, Cara Dune, and the Mandalorian as minifigs. The weird color scheme makes a bit more sense, and it’s cool that we get the characters… but I still want the Razor Crest and a Yiddle minifigure. WHERE IS THE YIDDLE MERCH, DISNEY?!
It’s a kind of pricey set and a vehicle that’s been done to death, but also could end up being the only Mandalorian merch of note that we ever get. Which is kind of a shame, because it was clearly based on some early concept art… as the look of the characters doesn’t feel right (too much tan on Mando, too dark of an outfit on Cara).